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Cablegate: Ubcv Patriarch's Funeral Held Successfully

VZCZCXRO4468
PP RUEHCHI RUEHDT RUEHNH
DE RUEHHM #0625 1930828
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 110828Z JUL 08
FM AMCONSUL HO CHI MINH CITY
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 4628
INFO RUEHHI/AMEMBASSY HANOI PRIORITY 3126
RUCNASE/ASEAN MEMBER COLLECTIVE
RUEHHM/AMCONSUL HO CHI MINH CITY 4855

UNCLAS HO CHI MINH CITY 000625

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

STATE FOR EAP/MLS, DRL/AWH AND DRL/IRF

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PHUM KIRF PREL PGOV VM
SUBJECT: UBCV PATRIARCH'S FUNERAL HELD SUCCESSFULLY

REF: A) HCMC 619 B)HCMC 608 AND PREVIOUS

1. (SBU) Summary. July 11 funeral observances organized by the
banned Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam (UBCV) for their
deceased patriarch, Thich Huyen Quang, proceeded without
incident, albeit amid tight security. The funeral was attended
by representatives of both the UBCV and the
government-recognized Vietnam Buddhist Sanga (VBS) as well as by
many others, including the press. UBCV contacts said that
condolence wreaths sent by international press and other
supporters were on display. The Patriarch's successor will
likely be named on the traditional Buddhist 49-day death
anniversary. End Summary.

UBCV, VBS, Police and Press All in Attendance
---------------------------------------------
2. (SBU) UBCV Monk Thich Chon Tam told post that the three-hour
funeral for former UBCV Patriarch Thich Huyen Quang proceeded as
planned on July 11th and the event "went smoothly." In addition
to senior UBCV monks, the head of the HCMC VBS Executive
Council, Venerable Thich Tri Quang, as well as many other VBS
monks from Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, also attended the
ceremony. UBCV monk Thich Khong Tanh said many VBS monks came
to pay respects to the Most Venerable as "he was their teacher
as well."

3. (SBU) Plainclothes policemen were posted inside and outside
Nguyen Thieu monastery and some monks from the provinces
recognized policemen present from their localities. Several
provincial monks previously prevented from traveling (ref A)
reported they managed to make it to Binh Dinh in time for the
funeral after all and UBCV contacts said the authorities "did
not do anything to openly prevent the ceremony." Despite the
broad turn out, rivalries persisted; UBCV monk Thich Khong Tanh
reported that UBCV leaders closed ranks around the coffin in
order to prevent non-UBCV members from "squeezing in."

4. (SBU) UBCV contacts also noted that many reporters were
present and that condolence wreaths sent from Radio Free Asia,
members of the Buddhist community in the U.S. and Bloc 8406 were
displayed. UBCV monks said some "disguised men" snuck into the
monastery to steal the wreaths, but were caught and thrown out.

GVN Vowed Not to Interfere
--------------------------
5. (SBU) At a July 10 press conference, MFA Spokesperson Le Dung
rejected Human Rights Watch's claims that the GVN had interfered
with Quang's funeral, noting that "as a citizen and a Buddhist
follower," senior UBCV monk Thich Quang Do is "within his
rights" to attend. Le Dung also reiterated the GVN's position
that the UBCV is not an officially recognized organization.
Consistent with the GVN's stated policy of non-interference,
Post received approval for an officer to attend the funeral from
the HCMC External Relations Office (ERO--the local office of the
MFA) late in the afternoon on July 10. (Note: Officers stationed
at ConGen HCMC are required to file a DipNote five work days
prior to provincial travel, but the ERO approved this request in
just over 24 hours.) Unfortunately, it was logistically
impossible for an officer to make the trip to Binh Dinh at that
point. Even if the GVN had approved the travel almost
immediately, flights from HCMC to Binh Dinh were already fully
booked.

Next Steps for the UBCV
-----------------------
6. (SBU) Senior UBCV monks did take a moment prior to the
funeral to kneel before Quang's coffin and pledge to fulfill the
former Patriarch's wishes to restore the UBCV to the same level
of popularity the organization had before 1975. Post is
expecting the announcement of the Fifth Patriarch to take place
during observances marking the traditional Buddhist 49-day death
anniversary for Quang in August.

7. (U) This cable was coordinated with Embassy Hanoi.

FAIRFAX

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